NEW YORK (WPIX)—The top Democrats in New York State turned out tonight for embattled, U.S. Congressman, Charles Rangel, showing up at his annual "birthday" fundraiser, held at the Plaza Hotel on Fifth Avenue.
U.S. Senators Charles Schumer and KIrsten Gillibrand, along with Governor David Paterson and Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, were among the political heavy hitters who praised the 80-year old Rangel for forty years of service to New York. The former Chairman of the House "Ways and Means" committee has been slapped with 13 charges of wrong-doing by the House ethics committee. The committee has suggested he be reprimanded for a variety of activities, including not reporting rental income on a villa in the Dominican Republic and for soliciting a million dollar donation from an oil company for a Public Service Center at a city college that would be named after Rangel.
Tonight, though, Dionne Warwick's hit song--"That's What Friends are For"--sung by the legend herself in the Plaza's main ballroom--could have served as the theme of the night. Senator Schumer remembered how Charlie Rangel reached out to help him back in 1981, when Schumer was a freshman in Congress: "He was caring, kind, a leader," adding, "He has fought for New York through thick and thin."
A heckler greeted some of the well-known politicians and celebrities as they pulled up at the Plaza. The guy who calls himself Joey Boots carried a sign that said "Happy Birthday, Crook". But Rangel had many defenders, including entertainer and civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte, Rev. Al Sharpton, and many fellow Congress members from New York.
Attendees paid anywhere from $200 to $25,000 for the buffet dinner. Rangel is trying to finance his September primary race, but he recently noted he has different money headaches: two million dollars in legal bills.